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Elliott School of International Affairs

The University touts the Elliott School of International Affairs for its building near the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the White House and the State Department.

But at the school’s celebration Friday, Dean Michael Brown urged students to appreciate not just its location but also the scholars and leaders that make it unique.

Here are four takeaways from the event’s speakers:

1. Progress happens, just not immediately

Brown said positive global change, such as the average life expectancy increasing from 31 to 70 years old over the last hundred years and waves of democratization, happens – but not on its own.

Brown told graduates that vision, character, courage and perseverance are the keys to progress. With more than 20,000 Elliott alumni working in about 100 countries, students should look forward to a career of visionary work, he said.

2. Be at the right place at the right time

Student speaker Max Sanders shared a former professor’s parting words: “You don’t need to be famous to leave your mark on history.”

Sanders said the Class of 2014 studied at the right time, with opportunities to study abroad during the Arab Spring and hear lectures by former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Elliott School Keynote Address speaker Professor David Shambaugh. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

Elliott School of International Affairs keynote speaker professor David Shambaugh. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

3. “You could find your spouse here.”

David Shambaugh, the director of the school’s China Policy Program, said international affairs degrees were just as useful today as they were in the 1970s when he earned a bachelor’s degree in East Asian studies from GW.

Shambaugh said his Elliott classmates boasted careers ranging from global investment banking to think-tank analysis to intelligence. One of those classmates, a Chinese art historian, married him more than 30 years ago.

“International Affairs degrees are practical and flexible,” Shambaugh said. “So look around because the next billionaire investment banker could be sitting in this room, or your future wife.”

4. Worry about what others think

Shambaugh said miscommunication and a “deficit of mutual trust” cause major wars today. He said graduates have the responsibility to engage and educate the “ignorant public” about different cultures.

Shambaugh reflected on his own graduation ceremony speaker in 1977, who was the ambassador to Bangladesh.

“He urged us to look beyond the East-West divide and pay attention to the developing world,” Shambough said. “The same is true today.”

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Shahzeb Mirza.

Brazil’s ambassador affirmed that his country would take a more proactive role in safeguarding peace and justice across the world during an on-campus speech Thursday.

Mauro Vieira, the Brazilian ambassador to the U.S., told listeners at the Elliott School of International Affairs to keep an eye on the rising global economic and political power, which he expects to increasingly attract international attention.

Vieira, who previously served as Brazil’s ambassador to Argentina until 2010, said the Brazilian government aims to become a leader in promoting human rights, non-interventionist policies and cooperation. Brazil is also looking to deepen diplomatic ties with other emerging powers.

He said the country is focusing on anti-terrorism efforts in cooperation with its allies, including South American neighbors and the U.S.

As Brazil’s economy has grown over the last two decades, Vieira said the government has managed to alleviate inequality and narrow the gap between men and women.

“I don’t think there is any imbalance between genders in our country,” Vieira said, adding that women increasingly play active roles in both the public and private sectors.

The ambassador said enthusiasm is beginning to peak among the Brazilian public for the World Cup in June, and excitement is building for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He added that both events promise to further boost Brazil’s economy, which already benefits from strong trade and investment.

The event was sponsored by GW’s Brazil Initiative, which launched last fall to expand courses and research on Brazil. An anonymous donor gave $500,000 to the University to establish the initiative.

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Elliott School of International Affairs professor Edward Gnehm, a former ambassador, offered his thoughts on the Arab Spring at an annual lecture Wednesday.

Elliott School of International Affairs professor Edward Gnehm, a former ambassador, offered his thoughts on the Arab Spring at an annual lecture Wednesday. Hatchet File Photo

This post was written by Hatcher reporter Victoria Sheridan.

Three years after the Arab Spring erupted throughout the Middle East, a former U.S. diplomat told students Thursday that less politically inclusive countries would continue to grapple with instability.

Edward “Skip” Gnehm, Jr., a former U.S. ambassador to Kuwait and Jordan who now teaches Middle East politics at GW, said nations such as Iraq and Egypt have excluded secularists and certain religious groups from the political process, breeding resentment. Meanwhile the Tunisian government has brought minority groups into its decision making.

“Tunisia, Egypt, and Iraq are examples of countries that have taken or are taking different paths as they cope with the present in search for that better tomorrow,” Gnehm said at the Annual Kuwait Chair Lecture in the Elliott School of International Affairs. “Building an inclusive political process is absolutely essential to long-term success.”

He said nearly the same issues – repressive governments, economic instability, poor living conditions and religious animosities – underlay political unrest in each country.

Gnehm, who earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from GW, said he doesn’t expect to see in the near future the “democratic institutions, political transparency, end of corruption or an open, competitive economy” that citizens in the Middle East have demanded.

“But I believe those aspirations and hopes remain very, very much in their hearts and minds,” he said.

Tunisia’s trajectory has stood out because the government has been able to compromise secular and Islamic demands. Many Tunisian leaders spent time in exile during the political revolution, giving them “exposure to the world outside of Tunisia,” Gnehm said, while Iraqi and Egyptian officials have been more “insulated and isolated.”

Civil society also grew in Tunisia as leaders constructed a new government, which has reinforced stability.

After a 36-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service, Gnehm joined the GW faculty in 2004. The Kuwaiti government endows his professorship. He also served on the Board of Trustees for seven years.

Gnehm said he still had hope for Iraq, where oil production is steadying, security efforts have increased and “political discourse is alive and well.” He called 2011 a “watershed moment in modern Middle East developments,” and he expects further changes.

“2011 is not the beginning, and 2014 is not the end,” he said.

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A former lecturer in the Elliott School of International Affairs was charged with espionage in Egypt alongside leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood on Wednesday.

Emad Shahin, a professor at the American University in Cairo who taught at GW in the 1990s, was charged for working with foreign governments to overthrow Egypt’s government two weeks ago. He was a critic of the military takeover last summer.

In an email statement, Shahin denied all charges and any involvement in the Muslim Brotherhood, adding that those who knew him would consider the charges “not merely as improbable but as beyond preposterous.”

“Though I have always been a fervent critic of authoritarian rule in Egypt, I have always expressed strong support for peaceful protests to restore democracy and express popular opposition against government repression,” Shahin said.

GW political science professor Nathan Brown called the charges “laughable.”

“I would sooner believe that Vice President Biden is a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army than I would give credence to the charges against Emad,” he told the New York Times.

Shahin was also critical of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s regime, although he had said the Muslim Brotherhood could be influential in a peaceful restoration of government in Egypt.

In addition to lecturing at GW, and has also taught at Harvard University and Notre Dame.

Before he could be arrested, Shahin fled the country for D.C. and attended a conference at Georgetown University on Wednesday.

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Herman Cain

Herman Cain spoke about his chances of winning the 2012 Republican Party presidential nomination at a College Republicans event in 2011. He will return to campus this month. Hatchet File Photo

Business executive Herman Cain will speak on campus this month, nearly two years after his unsuccessful bid for the Republican presidential nomination.

The GW College Republicans and GW Young America’s Foundation will host the Tea Party activist Nov. 18 at the Elliott School of International Affairs. Cain also visited the University in 2011 after he announced plans to compete for the GOP ticket.

Alex Pollock, public relations director for College Republicans, said the two student organizations chose Cain as their fall speaker because he stands for the diversity of the Republican Party.

“He represents a very good conservative success story of someone who grew up in segregated Atlanta and he was able to go to college and rise above those challenges and have a successful career in business,” Pollock said.

Bolstered by support of his “9-9-9″ tax plan, Cain nosed ahead of the other candidates vying for the Republican nomination in fall 2011.

But his success in the polls was cut short after allegations of sexual harassment and a 13-year affair overshadowed Cain’s campaign. He suspended his candidacy in December.

Pollock said the College Republicans had “no concerns” with the scandal.

“I think he still represents good fiscally conservative principles that we want to promote on campus,” Pollock said.

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ELISE APELIAN  | SENIOR STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
Andrew Bell, a conflict studies fellow at GW, said Thursday that the U.S. push for action against Syria was “illegal but legitimate.”

This post was written by Hatchet Reporter Elise Lee.

As top government leaders mull a potential strike on Syria, GW professors clashed over how the U.S. could justify its strike on legal grounds.

While a law professor argued that the U.S. would be acting in self-defense, an international affairs professor said chemical weapons use did not necessarily precipitate an armed attack.

Andrew Bell, a visiting fellow at GW’s Institute for Security and Conflict Studies, told the 80-person crowd that interfering on humanitarian grounds was “illegal but legitimate.”

“We have a system now where the majority of people think it is just to support human rights yet there is a legal system that explicitly rejects that,” Bell said.

But law professor Sean Murphy argued that the U.S. would be protecting itself from a chemical weapon attack similar to Syrian government’s use of poisonous sarin gas against thousands of people.

“At some point it’s a serious threat to U.S. national security. I think that might be what’s going on. I think that’s what’s motivating the White House and Congress,” Murphy said.

In the wake of Syria’s chemical weapons attack, President Barack Obama decided last week that he wants the U.S. to strike back and help bring down the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

Michael Matheson, an international law professor, said the national debates on Syria parallel the decision to take action in the small European nation Kosovo in the 1990s.

While Syria clearly violated international law, he said the nation’s “crimes against humanity” were not enough for the U.S. to enter the country under international law.

But Bell said Obama’s full-court press for action in Syria may have a strategic backdrop, with the president assuring a hardline stance against chemical weapons.

“I think Obama is trying to drive home that any action needs to be taken against chemical weapons use. It is the act,” he said.

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Senior Mark Buente and other graduating GW School of Business award recipients stand Friday during the graduation celebration in the Smith Center. Students were honored for their academic success and contributions to the school and the University. Delaney Walsh | Photo Editor

This post was written by contributing culture editor Olivia Kantor.

Speakers from both the GW School of Business and Elliott School of International Affairs charged students with setting their goals higher in graduation celebrations Friday.

At the business school, which packed by undergraduates and MBA students into the Smith Center, keynote speaker and GW alumnus Steve Ross encouraged students continually strive to challenge themselves.

“We must always set goals, if not we will just spin our wheels our entire lives. While you should enjoy every day, including today, never lose sight of the future,” he said. “Unless you feel the sense of getting that Holy Grail, don’t ever fall into complacency.”

Brian Landau, winner of the Master of Business Administration Leadership Award, exemplifies Ross’ message. After several successful years as a director of digital sales, Landau decided he wanted an extra edge, deciding to return to school to get an MBA and GW was his first choice.

 “Brian wanted to just add to his business skill set, he wanted the credentials, he knew this wasn’t going to be the easiest classes in terms of his own skill set but he was up for the challenge,” Arielle, Landau’s wife, explained.

Marjorie Thomas earned her MBA this year after finishing her undergraduate education 20 years ago. Her experience at the business school has been part of a lifetime of continually working to improve herself and learn, she said.

“[GW] challenged me to think on a more global level and to be cognizant of how I comport myself as a business person, and also to act in a socially and ethically responsible way,” Thomas said.

For Thomas, a mother of three, earning her MBA is deeply tied to her relationship to her family and her ongoing sacrifices for her children. “I want my kids to be proud of their mom,” she said.

At the Elliott School celebration in the Smith Center, Maurice “Mickey” East, dean of the school from 1988 to 1994,  discussed the dramatic transformation of the GW an academic outsider to a leader in international affairs and political science.

He also described an increasingly globalized world, with that phenomenon apparent Friday.

Tianyue Wu, an international student from China, majoring in global communications, decided four years ago to pursue her love for international affairs on the other side of the world. Wu’s family flew all the way from China to see her walk across the stage in the Smith Center.


“It feels so good to graduate, it’s really a new beginning,” said Wu.

 

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Music critic and Russian journalist Artemy Troitsky said  Pussy Riot – one of many groups rebelling against President Vladimir Putin’s rule through song – is paving the way for political progress. Photo used under the Creative Commons license.

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Nathaniel Erwin.

A professor from Moscow said his nation is facing a “cold civil war” between its government and restless citizens, who are building a culture of protest from the ground up.

Artemy Troitsky, also a music-focused journalist and broadcaster, said Tuesday at the Elliot School of International Affairs that the protest movement is driven by musicians, artists and poets.

Pussy Riot, a feminist punk-rock band, used songs to protest against a Russian government “violated by corruption,” he said. The group often performed in public squares to taunt law enforcement officers, until two of the female rockers were arrested for “hooliganism on grounds of religious hatred” last February, curtailing the movement’s momentum. They were imprisoned in August with two-year sentences.

“While we were having fun, nothing happened, except for bad things,” Troitsky said.

The band’s cause has resonated in the U.S., with musicians like Madonna, Sting and Yoko Ono calling the singers’ treatment undeserved.

Troitsky, who has taught music journalism, called the protests reminiscent of Soviet opposition during the 1980s, though these protests have yet to spark any reforms in the government.

A ban on the group’s videos, deemed extremist by government officials, was upheld last month.

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The first C.I.A. agent to face jail time for leaking classified information earned two degrees from GW during the 1980s.

John C. Kiriakou, whose rise and fall as a C.I.A. operative is the subject of a sprawling front-page story in Sunday’s New York Times, graduated from the Elliott School of International Affairs with a degree in Middle East Studies in 1986.

He also completed his master’s degree in legislative affairs in 1988.

Kiriakou will begin his 30-month prison sentence later this month for emailing the name of a covert C.I.A. officer to a freelance reporter, violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act.

Kiriakou, 48, claimed he believed the covert officer had retired, and was no longer in the field. The report did not include the name of the officer.

He was charged last January and pleaded guilty in October.

The Pennsylvania native had become a media focus over the past five years as an outspoken critic of waterboarding after working at the C.I.A. from 1990 to 2004.

But his time at GW piqued his interest in foreign relations and national security.

“Discovering a passion for international affairs, he scrounged scholarships to go to George Washington University, where he was recruited by a professor, a former C.I.A. psychiatrist who spotted talent for the agency,” the article read.

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Jeffrey Sachs, Climate Change

Renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs called out politicians for punting the issue of climate change and sustainable development in a talk at the Elliott School of International Affairs Monday. Cameron Lancaster | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet reporter McKinley Kant.

Jeffrey Sachs, one of the world’s most influential economists, railed against international and U.S. leaders for failing to address climate change Monday at the Elliott School of International Affairs.

Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute and a special United Nations adviser, contended that the issue of sustainable development is a crucial challenge that won’t go away, turning up the heat on President Barack Obama to create real change in his second term.

Remarking that it has been 20 years since the U.N.’s Rio Summit, which led to the Kyoto Protocol that the U.S.did not ratify, Sachs criticized the country for failing to take necessary action.

“The world’s most important country, the United States, has done almost nothing,” he said. “It needs to be more than a gimmick or a photo-op… Good governance entails planning. We’ve lost the art and belief in planning.”

Sachs, who has penned three New York Times bestsellers in the past decade, has spearheaded the sustainable development movement, which promotes preserving the environment while narrowing the poverty gap.

He criticized both presidential candidates for failing to mention climate change during the 2012 campaign, sounding the alarm on politicians punting the issue.

“It’s a problem that is slow-moving in our daily lives but a train wreck in the blink of an eye relative to human history,” he said. “The extent of environmental degradation is beyond our imaginations.”

He underscored that not only is the world’s population going to increase significantly, but that most of that population growth will take place in impoverished regions. There, ensuring healthy development of children and practicing sustainable farming will become even more necessary.

“The world has already become a world of extreme events,” he said as he pointed to an image of floodwaters in New York City caused by Hurricane Sandy in October. “The world is not in any way, shape, or form on a sustainable trajectory.”

 

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